Fire-related concerns continue to drive the development of materials that can reduce fire risk to save lives and protect property, but any flame retardants used to reduce that fire risk have to meet various safety standards to reduce the deleterious effect on the environment or human health. Textiles in particular require effective anti-flammable performance combined with minimal environmental impact because they are often washed and flame retardant additives can leach out of the fabric and into the environment. Layer-by-layer (LbL) deposition of flame retardant nanocoatings on foam, fabric and other polymeric substrates are being developed to meet these challenges. A related technology, based on aqueous polyelectrolyte complexes, is also achieving similar efficacy as LbL nanocoatings for some substrates, with fewer processing steps. Both technologies are water-based and use relatively environmentally-benign chemistries.